*this piece was originally written years ago for an unpublished fanzine which is why it goes on a bit longer than my usual reviews and speaks like there wasn’t a VHS resurgence*
As older fans of horror can and probably will tell you (hundreds of times) before the internet was a globe encompassing beast, we had a rough time snatching up hard to find movies. Through video stores and usually the awesome weirdos that worked at these video stores we would sometimes get lucky. VHS tapes (giant black things that brought hours of joy before degrading in quality, ruining the very machine you needed to view them with and destroying your weekend plans of Fulci film marathons) were one’s passport to weird and extreme worlds. And those wonderful weirdos behind the counter of your local mom and pop video stores were the gatekeepers.
Before I became an employee, I was a faithful customer to my local video shop. Recognition and horror talk got me in close to the high school senior who worked behind the counter on Friday and Saturday nights. This led to his bootleg discoveries being passed on to me. Wonderful bootlegs of various (mostly awful) quality. I’m not complaining, it’s something I honestly love and miss about the pre-internet horror film experience. Now, the point of all this rambling. I watched a shitty copy of Meatcleaver Massacre on a bootleg VHS sometime before I graduated high school. I watched a (barely) less shitty copy of Meatcleaver Massacre on YouTube about a month ago. My recollections of this film are just as muddy and indecipherable as they have been for the last few years between viewings. It’s supposed to be this way. That’s how amazing this movie is.
I remember some things going into my YouTube viewing. There are no meat cleavers in this film. I remember that, at least I think I remember that. Scenes that may or may not be real flash into existence. I remember Sean and his odd hair, I remember interesting facial grooming on the detectives, Christopher Lee rambling and, of course, I remember Poopers. Lovable old Poopers.
The soothing voice of horror, Christopher Lee, welcomes us to the film. He talks of death, evil spirits and the afterlife. It all has something to do with, most likely, nothing. It doesn’t matter. Christopher Lee was there. I’m sure of it. He rambles and then the movie begins. Sir Christopher Lee does not participate in the actual film. He’s just another passenger caught up in the Meatcleaver Massacre road trip.
A professor talks about Morak. Morak is a demonic entity that can be called into reality for the sole purpose of vengeance. Morak is also known as The Great Avenger. A wise student chimes in “Yeah. Like Batman” Instead of ignoring his idiotic student, who should have gone with Ghost Rider and not a crime hating vigilante, the professor replies “Like a super-Batman, if you wish.” Fuck. This movie has all the answers.
Morak will come into play soon enough. One of the professor’s students, a punk by the name of Mason, really disagrees with the professor that Morak may exist. Mason, being the complete asshole that he is, decides he can’t let his professor’s belief go. He and his group of no-goodniks decide to take a trip out to the professor’s house. I can only assume it’s a typical night over at Mr. Professor’s home. The professor is quietly reading, his son is making a sandwich, his daughter is taking a shower and his wife is letting out the loyal family dog Poopers. Mason and his gang of ne’er-do-wells arrive and are about to cause some mischief. Probably freak out the family with some old fashioned pranks. Then they killed poopers and all bets were off.
The family soon joins Poopers in whatever heaven he went to. The son is strangled, the wife is, I think, murdered by the correct use of the Mandible Claw and the daughter is bludgeoned with… well something. The print is very dark and outside of the strangulation you’re kind of left guessing how the family was done in. Mr. Professor was also bludgeoned but lives. He’s in a coma and unresponsive but still able to summon Morak for some sweet vengeance.
At this point, your average horror film would follow the simple arch of comeuppance. This is not your average film. Something else is at play here. Sure, it follows the conventions but it also has them unfold with the logic of a lunatic. The gang of murderers meets up at a comedy show. A show involving Peter Falk impressions and hairdresser hatred. Someone is murdered by possessed cacti while hiking through the desert. A man attempts to commit suicide but upon seeing he’s late for work figures slitting his wrists can wait. Sex is also put off for work. People are massacred but no meat cleavers are used. The lunatic follows his own logic and the movie benefits from it.
I sink deeper into the haze of this film. False scares and dream sequences further bend my sanity. The audio plays tricks on me. It slips in and out; sometimes the music drowns the dialogue. Dialogue written by an alien race that sat in on the marijuana induced ramblings of two twenty year old philosophy majors. Moments in time disappear, lost forever to the shadowy world of Meatcleaver Massacre or were simply butter knifed out by an insane editor. The movie ends and Christopher Lee returns. He talks about a shaman convention. Shortly after, he uses the term “Abracadabracle” This film has cast a spell on me.
Meatcleaver Massacre is a dream. No. Meatcleaver Massacre is a memory viewed through a thick fog. The images dance and briefly take shape but then disappear into the ether. Am I giving this movie too much credit? Maybe, but I think Poopers would disagree.